A bench-scale horizontal-flow anaerobic immobilized biomass (HAIB) reactor was assayed aiming to verify its performance in degrading benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX). A 138-ml HAIB reactor filled with polyurethane foam matrices containing immobilized anaerobic biomass was initially fed with synthetic substrate containing protein, carbohydrates and lipids. Thereafter, BTEX degradation was evaluated in the presence of the co-solvents ethanol and lineal alkylbenzene sulphonate (LAS), in two sequential experiments. The inlet BTEX concentration ranged from 1.3 to 27.0 mg/L of each compound and outlet concentrations were lower than 0.1 mg BTEX/L for both the experiments with ethanol and LAS. An active enriched microbial consortium was observed in the reactor, containing BTEX-degraders, and also acetogenic, acetotrophic and hydrogenotrophic microorganisms. The results from the most probable number (MPN) tests indicated a decrease in the number of methanogenic archae, while the number of anaerobic microorganisms in the biofilm was maintained during the experimental period. Methanogenic archae were found to represent less than 0.5 % of the total anaerobic organisms in the biomass inside the reactor.

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